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Global Magnetic Drifter Pilot Project

Research Highlights

Seven surface ocean drifters named after the "Seven Dwarfs," were built by Clearwater Instrumentation for deployment during the summer 2012 off the west coast of the US. Two drifters ended up not being deployed for technical reasons (doc and happy), but the other five remain at sea at present, until their batteries give out in a few months. Click on drifter names below to display the latest positions in GoogleEarth. The GoogleEarth code was created by Michigan State University undergraduate students Munim Ohibim and Aiman Shahpurwala as part of the MSU MAPLES Tominaga Lab.


In a small NSF pilot project, my Co-PI Masako Tominaga and I along with Senior Engineer Paul Fucile are developing surface ocean drifters to autonomously measure the Earth's magnetic field in the open ocean. Based on an idea by colleague Will Sager, we wish to supplement the sea surface measurements made by ships in areas of the ocean where such measurements are rare or will likely not be collected. For example, the Southern Ocean, due to the remoteness of the area and the lack of ship transits across this area, has very sparse data coverage. Satellite and airborne measurements lack the resolution or endurance respectively to be able to measure the magnetic field in these remote areas. The magnetic drifter measures the magnetic field and its geographic position every 20 minutes and communicates these data back to shore using an Iridium link every four hours.

Click here for table of drifter links to the latest Google Earth kml files

Magnetic drifters "doc" and "happy" remain on shore for the present time

This research is supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant 0961163

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